Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock
Let's cut right to the chase: the latest edition of the recently-legendary Guitar Hero franchise isn't anything new. It's been lambasted for this in pretty much all corners of the universe, but I'm not getting the problem; it offers fundamentally no major changes or improvements to the Guitar Hero play experience, but it does offer a whole pile of new songs and is playable on more hardware with slick new wireless controllers. If that doesn't appeal to you - say, if you wanted some type of running-and-jumping Guitar Hero platform minigames - then look elsewhere. But if you like Guitar Hero and would like to play it on the Wii with different songs, well, here you go.
I mean, there are a few tweaks and changes, but nothing really fundamentally different. The single-player mode has a story this time, which is new. It isn't much of one, but it's Guitar Hero, for fuck's sake; what do you expect? The non-retards in the audience would be a hair pissed anyhow if we had to scroll through screen after screen of text between the two things we want to do in this game, which are a) ROCK and b) MORROCK. I will, however, and somewhat ludicrously, heap praise upon the cutscenes in this game: I know it's Guitar Hero, but, honest-to-God, these cutscenes are some of the best I've seen in a long time. They're very short, used sparingly, get the point across with minimal (read: no) dialogue, and have style and humour to spare. Game companies take note: if story cutscenes can be done right in goddamn Guitar Hero, you can do them right in Super Super Text Scroll Fantasy 14 Extra Rape Edition.
The other new feature is boss battles. These might be keen in two-player (as I intend to find out as soon as extra guitars become available), but they're a bit dull in the career mode since (on any level above easy) they tend to devolve into "play through this a few times until you know which attacks show up when, and then save up the combo you need and win." You have a limited number of attacks and a sharply limited amount of time, after which the CPU will automatically win. The attacks themselves are interesting (they replace the Star Power you see in the normal levels), and are mainly time-limited effects that do things like disable one of your opponent's strings or make all the notes wave around so they're hard to see. Of the game's three boss battles, two are against famous guitarists (and involve playing songs written by those guitarists specifically for this game), and the third is a SEKRIT. I will say nothing except that the song chosen for it was absolutely perfect.
There's a whole bunch of stuff you can unlock by accomplishing various tasks throughout the career mode, and a whole additional bunch you can buy from the store using money you earn in career mode. There are new character models, guitars, skins, outfits, songs, and movies available at various prices. They're not gigantically compelling, since most of the songs are obscure stuff you probably aren't familiar with and everything else is just cosmetic, but they're still a nice touch. On the subject of the song list, it's surprisingly broad (including a lot of master recordings alongside the vocal covers), and includes a lot of material deserving of the appellation "Legends of Rock" alongside the awful 2007-vintage pop-rock crap that was hot at the time the were compiling the list. Part of me rebels at the thought of AFI and Weezer being included in a game subtitled "Legends of Rock," but, hey. Can't win 'em all. Oh, and while we're here, the Sex Pistols weren't any damn use in 1976, Anarchy in the U.K. hasn't aged especially well, and their commissioned-for-the-game brand-new rerecording of it is dreadful. Sorry, I know, game critic. I'll get back on topic now.
The other complaint I have - and it's not a very large one - is that the difficulty curve is steep. Since going up a difficulty level throws at you more notes to play along with enabling additional fret buttons, you find yourself with a very large amount of new stuff to cope with every time you move up. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but could discourage the more casual types from ever ranging past easy into the modes where the game gets to be, frankly, a lot more fun to play. On the other hand, it means there's a lot of play here for the truly hardcore guitar fanatics out there, since getting five stars on certain songs can be daunting even on medium, let along on expert. And playing them with no misses is quite an undertaking, considering the songs can be pretty damn long - that's a lot of opportunities for one slipped finger to ruin your show.
So overall, there's a lot of fun to be had here if you're in to this sort of thing. Sure, Guitar Hero III isn't breaking any new ground - it's pretty much the same game as Guitar Hero II, which in turn is pretty much the same as every rhythm game since Konami more-or-less invented the idea ten years ago. But I'm a big believer in games not having to be totally original in order to be good, and Guitar Hero III certainly is that.
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